Slike strani

is little more than an improvement, or rather expanfion, of a fragment which Pope printed in a Mifcellany long before he engrafted it into a regular poem. There is in this piece more pertnefs than wit, and more confidence than knowledge. The verfifica. tion is tolerable, nor can criticism allow it a higher praise.

His first tragedy was "Eurydice," acted at Drury Lane in 1731; of which I know not the reception nor the merit, but have heard it mentioned as a mean performance. He was not then too high to accept a Prologue and Epilogue from Aaron Hill, neither of which can be much commended.

Having cleared his tongue from his native pronunciation fo as to be no longer diftinguished as a Scot, he feems inclined to difencumber himself from all

adherences of his original, and took upon him to change his name from Scotch Malloch to English Mallet, without any imaginable reafon of preference which the eye or ear can difcover. What other proofs he gave of disrespect to his native country, I know not; but it was remarked of him, that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend.

About this time Pope, whom he vifited familiarly, published his "Effay on Man," but concealed the author; and, when Mallet entered one day, Pope asked him flightly what there was new. Mallet told him, that the newest piece was fomething called an Effay "on Man," which he had infpected idly, and seeing the utter inability of the author, who had neither skill in writing nor knowledge of the fubject, had

[ocr errors]


toffed it away. Pope, to punish his felf-conceit, told him the fecret.

A new edition of the works of Bacon being prepared (1750) for the prefs, Mallet was employed to prefix a Life, which he has written with elegance, perhaps with fome affectation; but with fo much more knowledge of hiftory than of fcience, that, when he afterwards undertook the Life of Marlborough, Warburton remarked, that he might perhaps forget that Marlborough was a general, as he had forgotten that Bacon was a philofopher.

When the Prince of Wales was driven from the palace, and, fetting himself at the head of the oppofition, kept a separate court, he endeavoured to encrease his popularity by the patronage of literature, and made Mallet his under-fecretary, with a falary of two hundred pounds a year; Thomson likewise had a penfion; and they were affociated in the compofition of "The Masque of Alfred," which in its original ftate was played at Cliefden in 1740; it was afterwards almoft wholly changed by Mallet, and brought upon the stage at Drury Lane in 1751, but with no great fuccefs.

Mallet, in a familiar converfation with Garrick, difcourfing of the diligence which he was then exerting upon the "Life of Marlborough," let him know, that, in the series of great men quickly to be exhibited, he fhould find a nich for the hero of the Theatre. Garrick profeffed to wonder by what artifice he could be introduced: but Mallet let him know, that, by a dexterous anticipation, he fhould fix him in a confpicuous place. "Mr. Mallet," fays Garrick, in his gratitude of exultation, "have you left off to write

" for

"for the stage ?" Mallet then confessed that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promifed to act it; and "Alfred" was produced.

The long retardation of the life of the Duke of Marlborough fhews, with ftrong conviction, how little confidence can be placed in pofthumous renown. When he died, it was foon determined that his story fhould be delivered to pofterity; and the papers fuppofed to contain the necefiary information were delivered to Lord Molefworth, who had been his favourite in Flanders. When Molefworth died, the fame papers were transferred with the fame defign to Sir Richard Steele, who in fome of his exigences put them in pawn. They remained with the old Dutchess, who in her will affigned the task to Glover and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a prohibition to infert any verfes. Glover rejected, I suppose, with disdain, the legacy, and devolved the whole work upon Mallet; who had from the late Duke of Marlborough a penfion to promote his induftry, and who talked of the difcoveries which he had made; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.


While he was in the Prince's fervice he published Muftapha," with a Prologue by Thomfon, not mean, but far inferior to that which he had received from Mallet, for "Agamemnon." The Epilogue, faid to be written by a friend, was compofed in hafte by Mallet, in the place of one promised, which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince his mafter. It was acted at Drury-lane in 1739, and was well received, but was never revived.

In 1740, he produced, as has been already men. tioned, "The Mafque of Alfred," in conjunction with Thomfon.

For fome time afterwards he lay at reft. After a long interval, his next work was "Amyntor and "Theodora" (1747), a long ftory in blank verse; in which it cannot be denied that there is copioufness and elegance of language, vigour of fentiment, and imagery well adapted to take poffeffion of the fancy. But it is blank verfe. This he fold to Vaillant for one hundred and twenty pounds. The firft fale was not great, and it is now loft in forgetfulness.

Mallet, by addrefs or accident, perhaps by his dependance on the Prince, found his way to Bolingbroke; a man whofe pride and petulance made his kindness difficult to gain, or keep, and whom Mallet was content to court by an act, which, I hope, was unwillingly performed. When it was found that Pope had clandeftinely printed an unauthorised pamphlet called "The Patriot King," Bolingbroke, in a fit of ufelefs fury, refolved to blaft his memory, and employed Mallet (1749) as the executioner of his vengeance. Mallet had not virtue, or had not fpirit, to refufe the office; and was rewarded, not long after, with the legacy of lord Bolingbroke's works.

Many of the political pieces had been written during the oppofition to Walpole, and given to Franklin, as he fuppofed, in perpetuity. Thefe, among the reft, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he refufed to yield the award; and, by the help of Millar the bookfeller, publifhed all that he could

find, but with fuccefs very much below his expec


In 1755, his mafque of "Britannia" was acted at Drury Lane; and his tragedy of " Elvira" in 1763; in which year he was appointed keeper of the Book of Entries for fhips in the port of London.

In the beginning of the laft war, when the nation was exasperated by ill fuccefs, he was employed to turn the publick vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter of accufation under the character of a "Plain "Man." The paper was with great industry circulated and difperfed; and he, for his feafonable intervention, had a confiderable penfion beftowed upon him, which he retained to his death.

Towards the end of his life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned alone to England, and died in April, 1765.

He was twice married, and by his first wife had feveral children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named Cilefia, wrote a tragedy called "Almida," which was acted at Drury Lane. His fecond wife was the daughter of a nobleman's fteward, who had a confiderable fortune, which fhe took care to retain in her own hands.

His ftature was diminutive, but he was regularly formed; his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he fuffered it to want no recommendation that drefs could give it. His converfation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, fink into filence.

As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high class. There is no fpecies of compofition in which he was


A a


« PrejšnjaNaprej »